Two-time captain leaves indelible mark on Lopes’ bowling program
By: Mack Drake/GCU Staff
Josh Mabry’s career with the Grand Canyon University Men’s Bowling program had all the compelling twists and turns you’d expect in a good reality television show.
From winning a roll-off to earn the final spot on the junior varsity team as a freshman, to leading the Lopes to their first Intercollegiate Team Championships (ITC) appearance ever as a junior, to missing significant time in his senior campaign due to a broken finger, Mabry’s career was filled with highs and lows.
“It was definitely a rollercoaster ride,” said Mabry, one of the Lopes’ captains and the lone senior on this year’s team. “What I’ll remember most is making the ITC Championships last year with my best friends. The friendships I’ve made while being on this team are ones that will last a lifetime.”
Mabry began his career on the Lopes’ junior varsity team, but quickly proved his worth and earned a promotion to the varsity roster for the Collegiate Club Championships that year.
Two years later, he led GCU to a fourth-place finish at the ITC Sectional Qualifier in Dallas, Texas as a junior. The top-4 finish sent the Lopes to the ITC Championships in Dayton, Ohio for the first time in program history.
“He proved that you can make big strides if you work hard at it,” said GCU Head Coach Ben Canfield. “He didn’t come in with a ton of bowling experience, but he had the determination to get better. The growth he showed during his four years is a great example of what I want a bowler to experience here.”
Looking for a big final act to his career, Mabry’s senior season began with shock and heartache.
Mabry suffered a broken finger on a shot during one of the final frames of GCU’s annual Grudge Match against Arizona State University in October.
“It was really painful,” Mabry said of the injury. “I threw the shot and I immediately knew something was wrong. I made a fist and heard a big pop in my finger. That’s when I told Coach to put someone else in.”
The injury put Mabry on the shelf for over two months as he worked to rehab the finger back to full strength.
Despite long rehab sessions with the GCU Club Sports Athletic Training staff, Mabry, often wearing a splint to protect the injured finger, appeared at nearly every practice to encourage his teammates. He also traveled with the team to every event, providing guidance and words of encouragement.
“It was tough sitting out,” Mabry admitted. “I learned a lot, though, and was pumped to watch the team win tournaments.”
Mabry’s road to recovery started with a set of physical exercises designed to rebuild strength in the finger. After a few weeks of that, he was cleared to bowl and began practicing with six-pound balls, later upgrading to 15-pound balls.
Mabry eventually made his highly-anticipated return to the lineup at the Las Vegas Invitational in December.
“It was definitely hard to trust it (the rehabbed finger), and it was something I just had to work through the rest of the year,” Mabry said. “I was never fully pain-free. There were times where I’d throw a shot and not feel anything in the finger, so I wasn’t as sharp as I wanted to be. Other than that, it was great being back and competing with the guys.”
Mabry’s return provided GCU with the boost it needed.
With Mabry back in the lineup, the Lopes went on to win the Antelope Open and Sin City Open, while placing second at the Arizona Cup and third at the Devil’s Duel Invitational.
GCU finished the regular season ranked No. 28 in the country by CollegeBowling.com and No. 6 in the final Club Team National standings.
The Lopes were looking to keep the momentum rolling at the ITC Sectional Qualifier in Dallas — the first tournament of the postseason — but the event was cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, putting a sudden end to the season.
“It was really disappointing,” Mabry said. “I felt we had a shot to do well in that tournament and make it back to the ITC (National) Championships. At the same time, I know Matt (Adragna) and Kyle (Gilbert) will help the team get back there next year.”
Mabry graduated this month with his bachelor’s degree in finance and economics. He plans to become a financial advisor or stockbroker while continuing to fine-tune his skills on the lanes.
“From barely making the team as a freshman, to being named a captain twice, his growth was incredible,” Canfield said. “He was a great leader and made a big impact on this program.”
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